Thousands fill Calgary’s streets to shine light on blood cancer

On the evening of Oct. 15, supporters met in Calgary for the Light the Night Walk to raise money and awareness for blood cancer.

More than 3,000 people holding LED lanterns crowded Eau Claire Market for a five-kilometre walk to help raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC).

“The LLSC exists to find cures and to ensure access for treatments to blood cancer patients,” said Lauren Atkinson, LLSC’s regional director for the Prairies.

The Light the Night walk was created by the LLSC and is one of nearly 200 walks for blood cancer that take place across North America.

“Our goal is to raise $5.4 million this year to help find a cure for blood cancer.”

Walkers that raised more than $100 before the event were given a shirt upon arrival, along with a coloured lantern to walk with: red for those walking in support of someone with blood cancer, gold for someone who is walking in memory of someone with blood cancer, or white for survivors, or those battling cancer.

High Hopes: Supporters raise their red lanterns high in Calgary to honour those battling blood cancer on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Thousands filled Eau Claire Market for the Light the Night fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. (Photo by Mitch Sparks/The Press)
High Hopes: Supporters raise their red lanterns high in Calgary to honour those battling blood cancer on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. Thousands filled Eau Claire Market for the Light the Night fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. (Photo by Mitch Sparks/The Press)

“I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in the fall of 2014,” said walker Matthew Miller.

“I felt so incredibly isolated even though I had so much support. It’s an absolute whirlwind as many can attest.”

After six months of chemotherapy, Miller’s cancer went into remission, and he was invited by friends to 2015’s Light the Night event on Facebook. It was the first time he had heard about the fundraiser.

“When I was walking across the Peace Bridge and saw all those lanterns, I couldn’t believe it,” said Miller.

“I didn’t feel like an anomaly anymore, it lifted my spirits.”

Miller was able to talk with other survivors or parents with children who had blood cancer, and it helped him realize that there is a lot of support within the community.

Light the Night started eight years ago and has grown to be one of the top fundraising walks in Canada, with 11 official walks and more than 25,000 registered walkers this year alone.

“To date, we have invested more than $36 million in research here in Canada, and over $1 billion in North America,” said Atkinson.

“The LLSC is currently funding 30 Canadian-based researchers.”

Walkers in Calgary followed a marked trail that led them from Eau Claire along the river, across the Peace Bridge, down to Kensington’s pedestrian bridge, and back along the river to the starting point.

A Sea of Support: Thousands walk along the Bow River in Calgary on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 to honour and raise funds for blood cancer patients. Walkers hold different coloured lanterns to signify why they are walking; Red is for those walking in support of someone with blood cancer, white is for cancer patients or cancer survivors, and gold is for those walking in memory of someone who died from blood cancer. (Photo by Mitch Sparks/The Press)
A Sea of Support: Thousands walk along the Bow River in Calgary on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 to honour and raise funds for blood cancer patients. Walkers hold different coloured lanterns to signify why they are walking; Red is for those walking in support of someone with blood cancer, white is for cancer patients or cancer survivors, and gold is for those walking in memory of someone who died from blood cancer. (Photo by Mitch Sparks/The Press)

More than $440,000 had been raised as of Oct. 16 but the LLSC expects to increase that number by the end of the year, thanks to the work of volunteers.

“LLSC is a voluntary organization, which means we rely on the support and leadership of our amazing volunteers,” said Atkinson.

“We are here to answer when you need information, to help with a referral, to provide support, or to be a listening ear.”

I didn’t feel like an anomaly anymore, it lifted my spirits. – Matthew Miller

For more information, or to donate to the foundation, visit their website at www.lightthenight.ca.

“We want to light up Canada and make a strong statement about fighting blood cancers,” said Atkinson.

“We are saving lives, not someday, but today.”

About Mitch Sparks 4 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Mitch Sparks is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2016-17 academic year.

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